Here is a compiled list of actions I recommend for those interested in environmental action, and some resources for getting started!
1. Vote in every election
More than any zero waste swap, what matters most is voicing your values in the form of a vote. Did you know that the U.S. military is a massive climate polluter? And that 71% of emissions are caused by 100 fossil fuel companies? Presidents and members of congress control legislations that can either destroy the planet further, like the Trump administration rolling back and weakening 100+ environmental regulations including the Clean Air Act, or create laws that protect ecosystems, wildlife, and encourage renewable energy. If you swap a plastic swap for a metal one but don’t vote for the climate, the oil industry that profits off of those straws will still be thriving. This is the most important thing to do, and in my opinion separates someone from being an environmentalist versus someone just reducing their waste. Click here to check your voter registration, and make sure to check your town or county’s schedule for upcoming local elections.
2. Educate yourself on climate injustice issues and solutions
Some important environmental issues I recommend learning about is the impact of fast fashion within the fashion industry, the impact of food waste, environmental racism, and different climate change solutions. On this page I’ve included a lists of books HERE that can help provide some great jumping off points.
3. Write to your officials and businesses about what you care about
The worst thing you can do with your voice is assume you don’t have one. Sign online petitions, write to businesses about their ethics or packaging, and make your needs known to your local officials. This page HERE has many email templates as well as petitions available to sign and make an impact. For the United States, click HERE to find your house representative, and HERE to find your senator.
4. Compost and Recycle Responsibly
According to Drawdown, reducing food waste and composting is a major way to fight climate change. Food and other organic waste does not properly break down in landfills, and instead releases methane which is about 80x more potent than CO2 due to the anaerobic methods of decomposition. If food waste was a country, it would be number THREE in climate emissions. That’s something we can help improve. Also, I see so many people say “blame companies and the government not individuals”- while I never mean to blame anyone, there is so much individuals influence. For example, if you put something unrecyclable in the recycling bin, it contaminates the whole bin and everything is sent to landfill. For that reason recycling is a flawed system and most things don’t end up recycled. Make sure to check what is actually recyclable in your area!
5. Reduce meat and dairy consumption and eat seasonally
I often do not discuss diets or being plant based on Instagram because I personally am not 100% vegetarian or plant based and don’t plan to be, but reducing meat and dairy is one of the top ways to make an impact as an individual- ESPECIALLY red meat. Red meat is responsible for not only an enormous amount of emissions but cattle farming is responsible for deforestation of trees and rainforests to make room for cattle. Even reducing red meat and doing Meatless Mondays, or switching to a plant based milk is a huge step to make personally. And if you’re interested in going fully plant based or vegetarian there are a ton of online resources to help.
6. Reduce your consumption + find reusables
There is no true form of completely ethical consumption- especially under capitalist systems that exploit people in order to get cheaper costs. When in doubt, ask yourself: do I really need this? Will this actually improve my quality of life, or is it an impulse buy? Can I find an option with a company that aligns with my values better? A great way to reduce consumption is to find reusable options so that way you only have to buy something once and never again. This can prevent you from wasting money on products made unsustainably and unethically, and give less funding to these businesses. This page HERE includes some reusables I like but before buying, make sure you will use them for years!
7. Support businesses doing more good than harm
An important part of environmental sustainability is finding business that make significant actions to both give back to communities as well as take their environmental policies seriously. Because large corporations cause the most pollution and emissions, shopping locally and sustainable or ethically minded businesses is a great way to give back with your everyday purchases that need to be refilled. HERE is a list of products and companies I personally patronize for various needs.
8. Start thrifting or buying secondhand if you can
Did you know if every person bought ONE item used instead of new, we would save 5.7 BILLION pounds of CO2 a year? That’s the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road for an entire year. Using the things that are already in the waste cycle saves valuable resources and energy. So many people use things once and never again. Check your local thrift stores, consignment shops, and antique stores. A good resource for finding secondhand women’s and children’s clothes online is Thred Up: they have lots of high end items, some still with tags. For men and women, theres also Swap.com, depop, poshmark, and Beacon’s Closet. However, remember #6- reducing unnecessary consumption is the most ethical decision. Also, this can be more difficult for those with specific size needs (Plus, petite, tall). If you cannot purchase ethically or secondhand, try to make your clothing last as long as possible, repair your clothes, and invest in things you know you will love for a long time. It’s also more sustainable to donate to shelters and specific organizations, or resell your old clothing than to drop off at a thrift store where it might be trashed.
9. Understand sustainable options can be difficult and require privilege
Not everyone can purchase from sustainable companies, change their diets, or have the ability to use certain products. Everyone has different economic statuses, physical and mental abilities, amounts of time. However, doing what you can is important for those who cannot. Sustainable actions require privilege, but reducing consumption does not. Don’t be too hard on yourself for not being perfect- the most sustainable things you can do are to vote and buy less, and make the most of what you have.
10. Follow a diverse range of intersectional climate activists
Only listening to white women about zero waste products is not an adequate way to educate yourself about climate justice,in order to get a holistic and intersectional view of climate action, make sure to diversify your following and get climate news from adequate sources. Some intersectional environmentalist accounts on instagram besides me on @worthnotwaste, are: